AT least 28 checks amounting to P240,000 issued to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) are missing, prompting Mayor Michael Rama and a city councilor to call for a wider investigation on the matter so City Hall can prevent further losses.

Nine checks amounting to P114,839.25 have been cashed, while the remaining 19 are covered by a “stop payment” order, which the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) filed before the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) after hospital officials reported the missing checks.

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Documents on the unauthorized release of the checks and the circumstances surrounding the loss were endorsed to the City Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Mayor for investigation.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also conducting its own investigation on the incident, as requested by CCMC Head Dr. Myrna Go.

Lourdes Archua, credit officer IV of CCMC’s Business and Finance Department, admitted she released the checks last May 4 to a certain Concha Ruth Adlawan, who introduced herself as a Philhealth employee.

Change

Days before that, a certain Kristine and Mary Ann Garcia, who claimed to be from Philhealth, called to inform her of the change in the system in the government insurance agency.

They said all check payments they issued must be withdrawn to be stamped with the Philhealth seal, otherwise the checks will not be honored by the bank.

“In my mind, I exercised the discretion to release the checks, otherwise CCMC would stand to lose P239,460.25... From all the foregoing, it can be gleaned that the checks were released in good faith and with nothing in my mind but the best interest of CCMC,” Archua said in her letter to Go.

Go issued a memorandum order to Archua dated May 24, 2010, asking her to explain the allegedly unauthorized release of the checks.

In a phone interview yesterday, Archua confirmed some of the checks are already covered by a stop payment order from Philhealth, and that she had to reimburse Philhealth for the bank charges for the order.

Archua, who has been working with the City for 19 years, declined from commenting further on the matter, saying her legal counsel, Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu, already submitted her written explanation to Go.

Forged

She said in her memorandum that those who duped her are professional swindlers.

On May 14, 2010, when Philhealth still had not returned the 28 checks, she sent her staff to the agency to collect the checks, but they were told Adlawan and Garcia are not connected with their office.

By then, LBP Cebu Capitol branch had already cashed nine checks issued to Cebu City Medical Center with the line “Chief of Hospital Dra. Myrna Go” added on top.

The checks, with different amounts ranging from P6,230 to P19,191, were cashed despite the signature of Go being allegedly forged. The amount represents various payments for hospital charges of Philhealth patients admitted at CCMC.

Swindlers

“After I have been made cognizant of the fact that the women who claimed to be Philhealth personnel were nothing but a bunch of swindlers, I acted with dispatch and left no stone unturned to minimize the damage caused upon CCMC by immediately contacting the different government agencies concerned for action and assistance,” Archua said.

Rama said he learned about the matter only yesterday and immediately ordered an investigation.

“The amount is not that big but yes, we could have used the money for CCMC’s services.

We don’t know yet but this could be just the tip of the iceberg. As in private companies, we might think this is just a small amount but maybe it could even reach millions,” the mayor said.

Councilor Jose Daluz III, chairman of the committee on budget and finance, said he will bring up the matter to the City Council next week so they can discuss what action they will take to make sure it does not happen again.

Inventory

Although Go already conducted her own investigation, Daluz said the probe was not conclusive and did not resolve the issue.

“A deeper investigation is needed so we can initiate corrective measures. Dr. Go made an investigation and the officer concerned already has an answer, but my question is, what is the next step? Does this mean abswelto na si Archua (Archua is cleared of any liability)?” he said.

Daluz said he will request Philhealth for an inventory of all the checks issued to CCMC in the last three years, if all of them were properly endorsed to the City Treasurer’s Office.

“We also have to discuss this with Land Bank. What is their procedure in encashing checks? I am very concerned about this because we have substantial deposits there,” he continued.

For her part, Go said she will leave it to the City Attorney’s Office and the NBI 7 to investigate the matter, and that she will just wait for their recommendation.

She also assured she will fully cooperate in the probe so that the culprits will be caught and punished.